Shifting Gears

Posted: January 31st, 2011 under Craft, Editing, the writing life.
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Shifting gears to working on revisions/corrections makes Book IV grumpy and me…a bit confused.    Did I really write that?   What was I thinking?   Was I thinking, or perhaps indulging in stream of consciousness?

In addition, while waiting for the pages Editor is sending with her markings on them (75 pages, she told me today…ouch!)  I have her notes and the notes and comments of two alpha readers and my agent.   One alpha reader deserves the honorable title of Nitpicker Extraordinary (and it is honorable, in this instance) and the other is a Characterization Maven who instantly notices a character acting out of character (or not showing the development that other events show must have occurred.)     Editor is multitalented, of course, so her comments range from deep structure to pacing to surface detail.

So going from one to the other, I’m having to change gears and deal with the comments at the level where they’re operative.

“Chapter 10 drags…esp. pp.xx through yy.”

“I wasn’t clear about why A did B”

“This period should be a comma.”

“Move Chapter 22 to the next book–we need to cut length”

“Character has one name on page y and another on page z.”

“Need to show specifics of development of [name] from [position] to [position]”

And many, many more.    Everything moved to Book IV from Book III changes Book IV (and thus makes first-drafting in Book IV harder), and everything changed within Book III forces other changes in Book III.  (For instance: Editor said something on page 58 wasn’t clear and why not have [name] say [clarifying bits.]   But the right place for [name] to say [clarifying bits] wasn’t on page 58…but on page 52.    However, I couldn’t just stuff the clarifying bits in there, because it made an ugly lump right there.  OK, so the clarifying bits had to be there by 52, but could come in bits up to 52.   Take pages  40-60 (for example) and shake until the bones rattle and unnecessary bits fall off, then insert clarifying bits where they fit best.

This is why when an editor says “Oh, just a few simple things; it won’t take you long,” they’re often wrong (though not wrong about what needs fixing…just the length of time it takes to do it.)     The surface level nit-fixing is the easiest and fastest.   Misspelled words–yup, “nside” should be “inside.”  Easy.   Character changes name–pick one version and correct any errors.  Easy.

Find that misplaced period, stick in a comma, you’re done.   If…if it’s really supposed to be a comma.  Maybe it should be a semi-colon.  Maybe, on reflection,  that whole passage would read better if you re-wrote the whole sentence; the period stays exactly where it is, but the words change.    Or take a “missing” definite article.  Sometimes it needs to be there: you wrote “He picked up book” and you meant “…the book” (not “…a book” or “…that book” or “…this book” or “…another book.”)    Sometimes it’s not needed, but just a habit.    Does “during lunch” need to be “during the lunch?”   Does it change meaning?

If even nits can require thought and time, the other levels of revision take more.   Something is unclear…why did the passage fail?   What’s needed to make it clear?   Where is the best place to make it clear (often it’s not where the unclarity was first noticed.)

Analytical editing-brain and creative first-drafting brain feel as if they were physically separate parts of my brain: analytical up front, peering out my forehead, and creative messing about in the back of the store, the stockroom,  running up and down to the cellar from time to time,  pretty much ignoring anything going on around it.  Making them both work on the same day is…interesting

1 Comment »

  • Comment by Kip Colegrove — February 1, 2011 @ 12:41 pm


    What about Plot Daemon? Has he gotten into a cask of the God Stuff out of sheer frustration? I suspect an avalanche of nit-picking does not sit well with him.

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